Arena: Dempsey is still “an important player” for USMNT

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Clint Dempsey will be 35 next summer when the World Cup turns to Russia, but the Seattle Sounders forward is still a vital piece in the U.S. Men’s National Team setup.

[ MORE: USMNT faces Venezuela ahead of return to Hex action ]

And manager Bruce Arena agrees.

“[Dempsey] has a bunch of good years still ahead of him,” Arena said. “With the national team, I think as we continue to surround him with good players, he’s still is a player that we believe can give us quality minutes and be an important player.”

Not only is Dempsey one of the most decorated USMNT players of his generation, which has seen the likes of Landon Donovan and others, but the Texas native is on the verge of cementing his place as the best goalscorer in U.S. history.

Dempsey is just one goal away from tying Donovan’s USMNT record of 57 goals, and the former Fulham attacker has reached this point after making 25 fewer international appearances than his former compatriot.

Arena, like many others, had his doubts about Dempsey’s lofty aspirations overseas, but the U.S. manager believes the Sounders forwards not only excelled in Europe but exceeded expectations during his time in England.

“[Dempsey’s] career has been impressive,” said Arena. “When he left MLS I certainly had my doubts that he could be a player that could earn significant minutes and move to big clubs in Europe, but he proved everyone wrong.”

Last season provided a major scare for Dempsey and both his club and national teams after the forward missed significant time due to a heart irregularity discovered by Sounders doctors.

Not only was Dempsey unavailable to play as the Sounders went on to win MLS Cup in December but the U.S. veteran’s future was in serious doubt.

Since, Dempsey has stormed back onto the MLS and U.S. Soccer scenes in 2017 with four goals each for the Sounders and USMNT.

“I think his illness last year allowed him to reflect on himself a little bit as a player and person, and I think it’s brought a different perspective to him both on and off the field,” said Arena. “Today, I see a quality player who is in a good place. It’s been a great run for him.”